MSI is gearing up for the Z97 Express chipset launch and their primary motherboard lines for the launch will be the Gaming Series and the OC Series. While the Gaming Series will cover price points from $100 up to $220 and will offer features for gamers and mainstream users the OC Series is priced between $200 and $400 and will offer products for competitive overclockers and enthusiasts. The OC Series is made up of three motherboards, the Z97 MPower, Z97 MPower MAX AC and the Z97 XPower AC.
The Z97 XPower AC will be MSI’s flagship motherboard in this series. The motherboard is designed for very strong CPU and memory overclocks as well as 3-way and 4-way multi-GPU overclocks. The board will feature a PEX8747 bridge chip from PLX, which enables you to run four PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slots. The CPU is powered by a 16 phase VRM that draws power from both 8pin and 4pin connectors. The board will also feature a 6pin PCI-Express power connector to stabilize power delivery to add-on cards. As far as connectivity on the board you have 10 SATA 6 Gb/s, an M.2 slot, twelve USB 3.0 ports, AudioBoost audio with in-built headphones amp, 802.11 ac WLAN, Bluetooth 4.0, and Intel gigabit Ethernet. Overclocking features include a coolant channel for water-cooling the VRMs, voltage measurement points, onboard voltage and OC tuning buttons and a redundant BIOS.
The Z97 MPower Max AC is a set below the Z97 XPower AC. It will feature a 12 phase VRM, but will still draw power from both 8pin and 4pin power connectors. While there is no bridge chip on the board it will still feature three PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slots (x8/x4/x4 when all three are populated). Storage and connectivity on the board includes eight SATA 6 Gb/s, one M.2 slot, ten USB 3.0 ports, 802.11 ac WLAN, Bluetooth 4.0, gigabit Ethernet, and AudioBoost audio with headphones amp and ground-layer isolation. This board will still offer a coolant channel, voltage check points, and onboard voltage and OC tuning buttons.
The Z97 MPower is the most affordable board in the series at $200. The board is pretty much the same as the Z97 MPower Max AC except it does not have 802.11 ac WLAN, Bluetooth 4.0, liquid-cooled VRM heatsinks, and onboard OC fine-tuning buttons.